Certain challenges confronting us as nation in our quest for growth and development may be pardonable and acceptable, while others are just mind boggling and heart rendering; hence should not be countenanced.
A classic example that is an affront to our status as a lower middle income country is the child mortality rate staring us in the face. The figures are just chilling and frightening: that with a population of about 28 million, one newborn dies every 15 minutes and 90 babies daily! In all, an incredible figure of 30,000 newborns die annually before reaching the first month in life!
According to UNICEF, which made these startling revelations in a statement on Tuesday, the major causes of these deaths include complications from preterm births, complications during birth, breathing difficulties just after delivery and infections.
But the question is, how on earth do we sit down for such a tragedy to buffet us as we if are a hapless group of people who have thrown our hands in the air in despair? Paradoxically, the health experts say the ?knowledge and tools to reduce at least two-thirds of these deaths are available in Ghana if immediate action is taken.?
Looking the figures, it is unlikely that Ghana will be able to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 target of reducing child deaths by two-thirds by September 2015.
UNICEF points out some of the factors militating against our efforts of meeting the MDG 4. These include lack of access to health facilities, quality of service delivery, and bad roads. However, UNICER insists that by applying an integrated strategy that links key interventions from pre-pregnancy care through to the post-partum period such as care during pregnancy, skilled delivery, early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding and postnatal care, Ghana can reduce the number of deaths significantly.
We appreciate the fact the Minister for Health, Mr Alex Segbefia, appreciates the situation and has accordingly charged all stakeholders in the health sector to redouble their efforts to accelerate the decline in childhood deaths. He has directed that strategies and action plan be put in place to give a good start to pre-term and low birth weight among babies. Like Public Agenda, Mr Segbefia is justifiably worried that 30 per cent of the deaths are premature deaths which are preventable.
We also share the view of UNICEF that a concerted effort by all stakeholders, public and private sector, is what is required to stem this tide of deaths.
Public Agenda therefore urge all stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, parents, community and health workers to adopt innovative ways to ensure that our babies live, since ‘business as usual’ practices will only perpetuate the status quo. And as rightly noted by the Director General of the Ghana Health Service prompt detection and treatment of infections among newborns will lead to improvement in newborn survival.
Finally, we urge the Minister for Health to see the task of reducing child mortality in Ghana as his baby project, which must be executed with all the seriousness it deserves. If he is able to succeed, his name will surely go down in history as the man who shepherded such a project to a fruitful end.